Virtue Blankets from Iceland

Virtue Blankets from Iceland

Amy Azzarito
Jan 6, 2009

Whether or not you're trying to keep a New Year's Resolution, we could probably all use some virtue in our lives. This Virtue Blanket is by Icelandic designer Mary (Olof Maria Olafsdottir). It is finely knitted using high quality, undyed Icelandic wool. The idea for the blanket comes from Icelandic virtue cloths of the early 18th century. Three virtue cloths have been found, and they are preserved in the National Museum of Iceland. The pattern is on Mary's modern Virtue Blankets is derived from the decorations on the historical virtue cloths, but reworked in a contemporary style. The blankets are pretty cool on their own, but we love the story behind them.

Here's the full story behind Icelandic virtue cloths from designer Mary:

The cloths were most probably made by Hjalti Þorsteinsson's daughters. Hjalti (1665–1754) was a clergyman in Vatnsfjörður, in the West Fjords. He was one of the country's leading artists in the 18th century, and several of his works are on display in the National Museum. Hjalti is believed to have drawn the decorations on the cloths – the style is very reminiscent of his work – and his daughters are believed to have embroidered them.

The minister had four daughters, Elín (1693), Steinvör (1696), Guðrún (1699) and Halldóra (1700). However, only three cloths have been found; it is said that Guðrún never sewed hers, which explains why her marriage was never a happy one.

The virtue cloths were used as bedspreads, and the example on display in the National Gallery inspired this Virtue Blanket. The cloths were decorated with ten virtues portrayed in female form with their Latin names. The ten virtues are: Faith, hope, charity, devoutness, modesty, humility, patience, temperance, purity and steadfastness. It was important for a 17th or 18th century wife to be blessed with these virtues.

The Virtue Blanket comes ready for use. You will not need to embroider it in order for it to have a positive effect on your marriage or partnership and remind you to be virtuous.

The Virtue blankets (155 cm x 210 cm) are $208

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